BEST BETS: "Jessica Jones," "Big Trouble/Escape from New York" & More October 2016 Highlights
To find out what Andrew and the rest of the Robot 6 crew are reading this week, click below …
Tim O’Shea: Wonder Woman 1: There is very little I can say about Cliff Chiang’s art except stunning. As for the writing? I guess I want to see where the next issue takes me before giving a solid verdict. But in general, I am impressed (though I also see some merit to J. Caleb Mozzocco’s recent analysis of the issue). On a small aside, much has been made of the horse beheading scene. I just wonder if I am the only one who thought the horse looked like Mr. Ed.
Captain America 3: I love Steve McNiven’s art in this issue. Extra points to Brubaker and McNiven for creating one of the most hilarious scenes with Cap’s shield ever.
Birds of Prey 1: I entered this book not wanting to like it, to be honest. Birds of Prey without Gail Simone just seems hamstrung. And yet I was wrong, Duane Swierczynski delivers an interesting script, and Jesus Saiz’s art is as exquisite as ever. I am a simpleton, but the character design (and that car!) for Starling has me interested. That being said, look forward to Todd Klein’s analysis of the new 52 logos. For me, Birds of Prey’s logo is quite lacking.
The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror 17: Jim Woodring, Zander Cannon, Gene Ha, Tom Hodges and Jane Wiedlin (yes Jane Wiedlin) all in one comic. But for my money, the issue opens strongest Cannon and Ha’s Nosferatu: A Simpsony of Horror. I do not think I will ever see another comic story that so perfectly matches the look and vibe of that silent film classic—through the Simpsons prism of course.
Hulk 41: Of all of Jeff Parker’s non-creator-owned work, this issue of Hulk is the finest thing he has ever written. I beg of you Parker, start doing an Untold Childhood Adventures of Thundy Ross as a back-up feature. Looking forward to whatever plans Parker has for Henry. Aspiring artists should study the subtle nuanced storytelling that
Gabriel Hardman delivers in this (and every) issue.
Heroes for Hire 12: I am so going to miss this ongoing series (which ends with this issue), which allowed writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning to feature Marvel’s B characters in a pseudo-team setting. The bolstering of Paladin as a character worth caring about is something that has a lasting effect in the Marvel current continuity.
Batman and Robin 1: Peter Tomasi’s solid script (particularly Bruce’s lecture to Damian) is undermined by the rushed style of Patrick Gleason’s art. I normally like Gleason’s art, but in this issue there were actual panels I had to read three or four times just to figure out what I was seeing.
Batman 1: Greg Capullo (inked by Jonathan Glapion) made this issue sing visually. Capullo’s understanding of body language in certain scenes really sold the story that writer Scott Snyder constructs. I really appreciate Snyder’s use of technology (in some Bruce Wayne scenes) to help give readers non-Batman moments (and yet still advance
Chris Mautner: Amulet Book 4: The Lost Council by Kazu Kibuishi — More solid all-ages fantasy comics from >r Kibuishi. As I’ve said before, Kibuishi wears his influences on his sleeve here, it’s more than a bit derivative, and I could see the “surprise traitor” coming a mile away, though to be fair, it’s not like Kibuishi wasn’t deliberately telegraphing it from a mile away. All that being said, the book remains an entertaining jaunt; Kibuishi is a very talented cartoonist and storyteller, and his work has grown appreciably in the years since the first volume was released. There’s a reason this series is selling so well. If DC were smart, they’d be looking more to works like these for their big reboot, instead of … well, wherever it is they are looking.
Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising by Rick Marschall and Warren Bernard — Like the title says, this is a look at how popular comic strip characters and comics in general were used to help sell products. The best thing about the book is the art, which shows classic characters like Little Nemo and the Yellow Kid hawking all manner of suspect gee-gaws. Even cartoonists like Peter Arno and Percy Crosby got in the act, proudly pitching tomato juice and beer. Most of the text is rather perfunctory, though it does get interesting when it talks about advertising firms like Jonstone and Cushing, which dealt exclusively in comic strip ads. Plus, there’s a nice selection of Mr. Coffee Nerves strips at the back, and I’m always a sucker for that guy. I’d love a top hat like his.
Brigid Alverson: Usually I prefer graphic novels to monthly comics, but I have been picking up a few single issues here and there. I liked B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth Russia #1 because it started a new story arc with just enough exposition to let me know where things stand. People in Russia are… melting into blobs? Hard to say, but whatever it is, it’s nasty. The B.P.R.D. is in disarray — Hellboy has quit, Liz Sherman is in hiding after causing a giant conflagration, and Abe Sapien is in a coma, having been shot by the psychic Fenix. That leaves Kate Corrigan and Johann Kraus to travel to Moscow and get dissed by the local officials before knuckling down to solve their problem. The comic opens strong with a pretty scary supernatural incident, then cuts to Kate and Johann on their way to Russia. Unfortunately, all the exposition gets in the way of the story a bit. I’d like to know more about what is happening, but I guess that’s a reason to read issue 2.
I was a bit more dubious about Conan Road of Kings #8 — can I really come in at issue 8 of a story arc and follow it? Yes, I can, because there’s a nice little block of text at the beginning that explains what has happened so far, and despite all the elaborate names and places (“Prince Arpello of the province of Pellia”) that mean nothing to me right now, the story is pretty straightforward: Conan got mixed up with some sort of a resistance group, they were betrayed, and everyone did a bunk, leaving him with the young daughter of one member of the group. So what we have is an adventure story with a big hunky guy and spunky little girl eluding the guards, fighting giant insects, etc. The art is nice and clear, not overly complicated, and the bright coloring makes it feel like a 1950s adventure movie.
Andrew Foley: Well, they got me. I succumbed to the car crash fascination of it all and went out and read Catwoman #1 and Red Hood and The Outlaws #1. I am so weak. First up, I’ve got to say that, without the online uproar, the books’ immediate draw for me would be their artwork, and on that score neither disappoints. It’s some of the things the artists have been called upon to draw that makes me uncomfortable.
Maybe it’s time for me to simply admit I’m a crotchety old prude who’s out of touch with the youth of today, but I’ve got issues with these issues. I’m not saying DC shouldn’t publish mature interpretations of what started out as children’s comic characters (and in at least one of these cases is aimed at readers as young as 12 years old). I will, however, suggest that maybe a little more thought should have gone into whether making these interpretations the characters’ official versions was the best strategy to go with. Why risk alienating a substantial portion of your potential audience during a line-wide relaunch intended to bring new and lapsed readers to your books? Maybe they ran the numbers and concluded that it’s a risk worth taking, that the dollars brought in from the Lady Death crowd will be worth the inevitable ill will from more politically correct quarters.
I’d be surprised if those involved with Catwoman #1 hadn’t made some calculations along those lines, actually, as the entire book seems practically tailor-made to provoke a response. Many comics folk these days seem to care little what the response actually is, so long as it’s loud and passionate. “We want people to talk about the books” is an oft-heard refrain. If you’re worried people won’t talk about the high quality of a book’s writing, crass titillation ought to do the trick–it worked for Frank Miller, right? Well yes it did, but there was a palpable sense of childlike glee in the Miller-written scene Catwoman #1’s title is a reference to. In contrast, Catwoman #1’s conclusion seems a hollow affair, an exercise in cynical manipulation with the sole purpose of cashing in on the barriers broken by All-Star Batman and Robin. I wasn’t happy when ASBARTBW plowed headlong into this territory, either, but at least I got the sense that its writer, if no one else, was having fun.
Though it wasn’t what I’m looking for from the character, on a meta and craft level, Catwoman #1 hits exactly the target its makers are aiming for. Red Hood and The Outlaws #1 feels more scattershot to me. It doesn’t seem to be aiming for any particular bullseye, yet still manages to miss. I’d have problems with the New DC’s version of Starfire even if she was an entirely new character. I just don’t see what good can come from having an oversexed bimbo so dumb she can barely tell the guys she’s sleeping with apart presented as the lead female character in a superhero book for teens. That sends a terrible message to kids and parents DC presumably wants to attract. That it’s a previously existing character who previously wasn’t portrayed as a sex-starved blow-up doll sends a terrible message to nearly everyone. Yes, Koriand’r’s sensuality was always a big part of her character. And yes, she was for a time a naïve innocent unaccustomed to the ways of the world–at least the world she was on. But for as long as I read the Teen Titans, she wasn’t anything close to…that. Though the impression I got from the issue overall is that the writer’s looking to create a straight superhero adventure romp, the insertion of frat boy fantasies of casual sex absent any responsibility was so baffling to me that I’d almost convinced myself there was a point to it beyond the obvious. “Maybe Scott Lobdell’s setting the stage for a story about sexually transmitted infections, where Arsenal has to deal with Tamaranian genital warts or something,” I thought.
Then I heard about the semi-transparent bikini and I decided to think about something else.
My favourite thing about Wonder Woman #1 was the way Cliff Chiang presented the character visually. Without someone next to her, Diana looks much the way she always has. But when you compare her to other people, you realize she’s huge, an imposing physical presence who towers over those around her. That’s how a confident, powerful superhero of Wonder Woman’s stature ought to be drawn. I hope other artists who’ll be working with the character are taking notes.
I quite enjoyed everything else about the issue too, but once finished I couldn’t help feeling that I should have enjoyed it more. What was there was pretty great. Azzarello’s Diana is a half superhero, half 300 Spartan, no-nonsense warrior to be reckoned with. She’s a powerful character, defined in this issue by her actions rather than her relationship to male characters. Her traditional Greek god enemies have been given a patina of Vertigo grit, but it doesn’t read to me as the horror story Azzarello’s been billing it as. There’s some disturbing imagery, but overall this first issue is closer in tone to Game of Thrones than Hellblazer. My only problem with Wonder Woman #1, really, is that it felt a little thin. Maybe that’s because of the decreased page count DC creators have to work with these days, maybe it’s because so many other New 52 books have been fairly dense reads, but this book left me not just wanting more, but feeling like I should’ve gotten more.
And I’m running out of time to get these done, so a few quick hits:
Joss Whedon Conversations: I learned how to write stories from any number of places, but I learned how to write screenplays from Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series scripts. And there are many writers whose interviews I find more informative and entertaining than their work. So I probably had unreasonably high hopes for this collection of interviews. It’s not bad, but the interviews’ subject matter overlap, becoming somewhat repetitive, and most don’t pursue the subjects broached in the sort of depth I’d have preferred. I keep picking away at it mostly because Whedon’s obvious passion for his work is good for a morale boost.
The Bulletproof Coffin: I know I’ll love this book when I finish reading it, but that’s not going to be for awhile. I’ve read the first three issue/chapters in fits and starts, but this engrossing and weird story of forbidden comics is something I won’t be able to fully enjoy until I’m able to commit a solid chunk of time to read the thing in one or two sittings. Given the way my schedule’s looking these days, I’ve got something to look forward to on December 25.
JACK KIRBY’S FOURTH WORLD Featuring MISTER MIRACLE: I’ve been on a Jack Kirby kick for about six months now, ever since I read his insane and brilliant OMAC series in hardcover. I read his New Gods run years ago, but haven’t had much exposure to the rest of his Fourth World material. Unfortunately, everything of Kirby’s I read from now on will have the burden of high expectations to contend with. His Fourth World stuff is frequently presented as Kirby’s masterwork, and it’s great, BUT–! My “mind” is still 100% BLOWN by OMAC! I’m enjoying the “lines on paper” that is Mister Miracle, but OMAC… IT IS NOT!!! Perhaps–NOTHING ever CAN be!!